About Umauma Falls
Umauma Falls is a stunningly attractive multi-tiered waterfall tumbling over a cumulative height reported to be 300ft (though I swear it looked nowhere near that tall).
We definitely noticed that this waterfall had frequented post cards as well as calendars during our trips to the Big Island. So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us that it once made our Top 10 List of Hawaiian Waterfalls. Our visit to the falls was essentially a breeze (physically speaking) because it was right off the road. The catch, however, was that the road was private.
During our last visit here in 2007, the waterfall resided in the World Botanical Garden (so there was an admission price per person to tour the garden, which included the falls).
The World Botanical Garden was a project that started with grand plans to convert former sugarcane farmland into a sanctuary for rare and endangered flora. Eventually, the gardens opened to the public in July 1995 and apparently they continued to expand their worldwide flora collection.
In addition to the falls, there was also a Rain Forest walk with 100 Bromeliad species, a children’s maze, an arboretum, and picnic areas. Admittedly, we pretty much only did the waterfall and didn’t do anything else here (so we didn’t really make the admission price worth our while).
In late 2011, we were recently informed that this waterfall was now under the ownership of the Umauma Experience. They wanted us to relay the message that they now offer ziplining, a tropical garden, a palm alley walk, restrooms, a vistor center, and a snack shack. One of these days, we’ll have to check it out to see how it differs from our first experience here.
From the Hwy 19 and Hwy 11 junction by the Hilo Airport in Hilo, take Hwy 19 north. At the 16-mile post, turn left (west) at the signed turnoff (Leopolino Rd) for the World Botanical Gardens and Umauma Falls. Shortly thereafter, turn right (north) at the first T-intersection, and drive the short distance to the World Botanical Gardens registration center car park. This drive was about 15 miles taking us under 30 minutes.
From the registration center car park, the clockwise driving loop begins on the narrow road behind you. At the 0.6-mile signpost, turn right (east) onto an unpaved road providing sweeping ocean views and passing signposted flora collections en route to the small car park near Umauma Falls Lookout.
The unpaved road continues past the falls lookout and rejoins the paved road at another T-intersection north of the Rain Forest Walk. Turning right, you complete a 2-mile loop and return to the registration center.
To give you some geographical context, Hilo was 79 miles (under 2 hours drive) east of Kailua-Kona via the Saddle Road. Otherwise, taking the more conventional route along Hwy 19 through Waikoloa, Waikoloa Village, and Waimea, this drive would be 96 miles long taking over 2 hours.
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